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Plymouth Plantation

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Plymouth Plantation

Students blast back in time to the original Plymouth Plantation of 1620, the first colonial settlement in southern New England. Follow along as they learn about daily life and culture, the roles of Pilgrim men and women, the voyage of the Mayflower, and the importance of the Mayflower Compact. Understand that Thanksgiving for the Pilgrims was a daily practice, not just a feast held once a year.

The Plymouth Plantation was the first settlement created by the Pilgrims in the New World. Learn how they lived and worked to establish a new community based on religious freedom.

  1. Students will understand why the Pilgrims left England for the "New World." The Pilgrims wanted to live in a place where they could practice their religion separate from the Church of England. In the 1600's people could not practice their own religion. In fact, everyone in England had to belong to the Church of England. Those who disagreed with the church were called separatists. Separatists were treated poorly, and even arrested for their beliefs.
  2. Students will realize that not every person who journeyed to the North American continent was in search of religious freedom. Many of the people who left with the Pilgrims were merchants or servants, and some people may have even been seeking adventure.
  3. Students will know about the journey. In August of 1620 the Pilgrims left England with the permission of the King to form a colony in the "New World." Originally, two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell, were supposed to make the journey. However, they had to return to England twice, due to leaks that developed in the Speedwell. In September of 1620, the Mayflower left England alone with 102 passengers. Everybody, except for one person, survived the two-month journey to the North American coast. Finally, the Mayflower landed at Cape Cod, in what is now the state of Massachusetts. When the Pilgrims arrived, the weather was cold and the soil was frozen. This made it difficult to build homes and find food, so the colonists stayed on the Mayflower until a shelter was constructed.
  4. Students will understand the Mayflower Compact. The passengers of the Mayflower knew they needed to have a government, so they composed the Mayflower Compact before they left the ship. It states that all of the people who signed it agreed to set up a government and promised to obey any laws their leaders passed.
  5. Students will know about the land the Pilgrims settled. The settlers chose a piece of land that was a former Indian village. It had a stream and the land had already been cleared. On December 21, 1620, the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Plantation. Plymouth was actually the second English settlement in America, but it was the first settlement in New England.
  6. Students will realize that, in the beginning, life was harsh for the Pilgrims. Only 50 people survived the first winter. The Pilgrims would have to learn how to survive in a land with which they were unfamiliar.
  7. Students will understand the important role the Native Americans played in the survival of Plymouth Plantation. Squanto, an English-speaking native, and his tribe, the Wampanoag, helped Plymouth Plantation become a thriving community. With Squanto as an interpreter, the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims communicated with each other. The natives taught the settlers how to fish, hunt, and grow food. With the assistance of the Wampanoag, the settlers adjusted to their environment, and they were able to obtain the basic necessities for life: food, shelter, and clothing. The two groups traded with each other and even agreed to mutual protection in case of attacks from unfriendly tribes. After the first harvest, the community celebrated by holding a festival that included the Wampanoag tribe. This festival became known as Thanksgiving.
  8. Students will realize that the success of the settlement depended on the work ethic of its inhabitants. Plymouth Plantation had a small population; consequently, everyone had to work, including the children. Boys over the age of seven were expected to help their fathers raise crops. In addition, men and boys would fish and hunt. Generally, girls stayed at home to help their mothers clean, maintain the gardens and milk the cows and goats. In addition, women were in charge of cooking the meals.
  9. Students will understand that order was very important to the Pilgrims. The Mayflower Compact provided a foundation for a government and a governor to create and enforce laws. Those who did not follow the laws were punished, sometimes severely. The settlement created a militia to protect the village from attacks. Every man between the ages of sixteen and sixty had to serve in the militia. These men were trained to use swords and muskets. In addition, the Pilgrims constructed a large wall, called a palisade, around their fort and meetinghouse. Behind the palisade sat cannons ready to defend the people of Plymouth Plantation against attack.
  10. Students will realize that within twenty years of the Pilgrims' landing at Cape Cod, the Plymouth colony grew to eight towns and about 2500 people.


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